The Minnesota Miracle

Paul sent out a text to our family suggesting Arby’s instead of our usual weekly lunch at my parents’ house. He had a sheet of coupons that could feed us all for a reasonable price. If in 2002 you would have told me that in 2018 Paul would love alcohol and Arby’s more than I do, I would have asked you if I was dead. Yet here we are.

img_6161“Next year, we need to have someone take our family Christmas card right here,” I said between bites of delicious Arby’s roast beef. My mom laughed but I was kind of serious. We had a great lunch yesterday, in part because it was our first time together since the missile scare.

My mom said it made her realize that if it were to happen, there’s probably no way we’d be together. She’s right. I came to the same conclusion on Saturday night. An unsettling part of the whole ordeal, I think, is that the false alarm dismantled our hypothetical theories about what it might be like, how we might act. What we learned, I think, is that we won’t really be able to do anything. That’s the root, I think, of a lot of the emotions.

But by Sunday morning, our family was happy to be together again. “Dad just told Matty to close all the windows,” Tanya told me. “‘I’m gonna turn on the AC’ he said,” she finished. I laughed. “This is why I am who I am,” I told Lynnette. “Oh, my God,” she said, rolling her eyes. Paul bristled loudly at the fact that our parents didn’t call him during or after the warning. Sensing weakness, I went in for the kill. “Wait, mom and dad didn’t call you? She called us almost immediately,” I said. Paul didn’t even have time to react before Matty jumped in with “They probably thought you were still hungover and wouldn’t answer the phone, anyway.” Paul laughed. “Okay, fair,” he said. “But still,” he continued. “You should have called your favorite son, even if the cancellation went into effect…” and before he even finished, my dad turned away from him and rolled his eyes. “What have I created?” he asked rhetorically. He shook his head. Seated next to him, I laughed out loud. “I’m the chillest guy…” he muttered to himself. I had never seen my dad do that before. “OK, but did mom and dad really call you?” Paul said. I laughed. “No!” I said.


After lunch, Dad zipped home to catch his beloved Vikings play the Saints. The rest of us stayed at Pearlridge to shop. About an hour later, our family of five went to pick up dessert from Baldwin’s. I picked one up for dad to drop off. We got to the H, dropped off his rainbow with ice cream, then started off again in hopes of driving the twins into a nap. The problem was the twins already saw Grandma and Grandpa’s house and revolted as we drove away. “Just drop the three of us off at the house,” I said. “What?” Lynnette asked. “They’re mad at us because we’re not going to my parents’ house. Drop us off and you go do Mommy-Madison Time,” I said. “Really? What are we gonna do?” Lynnette said. “I don’t know. Go get pedicures,” I said. “Ooohhhh!!! I want a pedicure!” Madison said. “For real?” Lynnette said. “Yeah,” I said.

img_6355My dad started getting nervous as the Saints mounted their second-half comeback. “You guys not gonna do this to me again, are you?” he said wistfully in the final 10 minutes of the game.

When the Saints took a 21-20 lead, he sat up in his seat and said “Alright, Keenum, let’s see what you got.” When Fox cut away to show highlights of past Viking playoff failures via field goal, my dad was beside himself. “Why they gotta do that?” he said to no one, but probably Joe Buck.

He exhaled as Kai Forbath’s 53-yard field goal gave Minnesota a 2-point lead. But the very next thing he did was look at the clock. “That’s too much time for Brees,” he said of the 1:29 remaining. He knew. A lifetime as a sports fan and decades of having his fandom go unrewarded have taught him, conditioned him about what to expect from his favorite teams.

Brees did what Brees does and left the Vikings a scant 25 seconds away from another heartbreaker. My dad, Paul, and I started running scenarios: pass over the middle, hustle up, spike. As the seconds melted away, so too did our possible win-scenarios. “They have to make a 20 yard catch and then somehow get out of bounds,” I said. My dad didn’t answer. Of all the things we came up with, “touchdown pass” did not even occur to us. Then, this happened:

img_6354I took these pictures after the initial play. This is my dad reacting to the replay. It may as well have been in the first time because he was almost catatonic when the touchdown happened in real time. I jumped on him and hugged him as Diggs threw his helmet in the end zone. “Did that really just happen?” my dad kept saying over and over. He didn’t celebrate. As an embattled sports fan of a star-crossed franchise, he knew better. He waited. He looked at the clock. He looked for flags. He wanted to be sure this moment would not be ripped away from him. And then when he was sure, he shouted and cheered. Then – and this is the best part – got upset that Fox didn’t show Millie, a 99-year-old Vikings fan who was in attendance in her FIRST VIKINGS PLAYOFF GAME. Why? OGs respect OGs.

I don’t know if the Vikings will win the Super Bowl. Hell, I’m not even sure they’ll beat the Eagles in Philly next weekend. But my dad will always have the Minnesota Miracle. Watching my dad bask in it was almost as good as the Mets or Cowboys winning a big game. And, since neither of those two things will ever happen, I get to live vicariously through my father.

Dad,
I’m so glad the Vikings came through for you. I’m glad I was there to witness it with you. Thank you for helping me become a sports fan. You didn’t tell me that 99% of the time it sucks. But yesterday you reminded me that the other 1% is always worth it.

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That One Day That Started With a Missile Warning

Obviously, the title is tongue-in-cheek. I just wanted to be able to find this entry easily later. Like everyone else, we were confused, scared, and stunned by the series of events surrounding the inbound missile false alarm. After the alert was called off, I carpe diemed Saturday morning by continuing on to my scheduled medical appointment. Straight out of the Dead Poets playbook. Life goes on.

img_6153When I got home, we made a better attempt at making the most of things by going some place we’d never been before. Lynnette deftly maneuvered us up to the Tantalus Lookout.

img_5984As you’ve probably guessed, Madison was uneasy about being so visibly high above street level. When Lynnette pointed out some familiar landmarks to Mad, she replied with a combination of awe, discomfort, and faked interest.

As an aside, I am terrible at taking selfies. Since I am a firm believer in the concept of reps (like Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule), it make sense I would suck at selfies. I never take them. Just look at all the space at the tip and right of the picture that could have been cut to capture more of my wife’s beautiful face. I think I’m going to make improving my selfie skills a New Year’s resolution! It’s one I might actually be able to stick with!

img_6098img_6045We found a new playground at Manoa Elementary. Madison was impressed with the multi-person spinner. “It’s a Miracle Spinner!” she said as soon as she saw it. This is how into playgrounds she is: she looks them up by brand on the internet, makes notes of the various structures, and checks the branding on the gyms we visit.

I chose this picture because:

  1. Lynnette told Madison to push she and Avery slowly, but Madison tried to push them quickly anyway.
  2. Despite her claims to the contrary, Madison is so clumsy.

Cole found a tree branch in the grass and used it as a mallet for the xylophone. He was pretty pleased with himself as he hammered away, and while that might have been the highlight of his day, it wasn’t the highlight of mine.

Nope, that came later when Avery started to wander away from the playground. The playground was in a larger fenced-in area, so we weren’t worried, but Cole’s been to the playground with us enough to know when something’s wrong. “A-bery! A-bery!” he shouted while pointing at his little sister. He eventually followed after her and chased her back toward the playground. What a big brother!

img_6145Lynnette decided to seize her day another way. We stopped by Chocolea before we left Manoa and she had me pick up some chocolate-covered mac nuts and their special crunch. Then, on our way out of Manoa, Lynnette’s Snack-Sense (exactly like Spider-Man’s early warning ability, but in the case of Lynnette’s super-power, it alerts her to nearby eateries) went off. “Ohh, Banan! she cooed as UH appeared on the horizon. I ordered then waited 10 minutes for her precious Banan. It was worth it solely because in sharing her Banan with the twins, they stopped fussing from the back of the van.

These, of course, are small gestures totally deserved by Lynnette who nursed the twins and me through illness this week. She’s the MVP of 2018 so far and I don’t know that she has competition. I’ve got some laundry in, Madison’s glacial attempt at cleaning her room is in process, and the twins are going down for bed. Life can’t be exciting all of the time, but all of the time it is better than the alternative. We hope everyone finds themselves in the company of people they love tonight.

Lynnette Appreciation Post #1,732

I am a simple man motivated primarily by two factors: fear and the desire for simplicity. I suspect the first is the result of the negative reinforcement experienced through years of Catholic schooling and repeated failures on the baseball field. I’m pretty sure the second has to do with the fact that laziness is my defining quality. Lynnette understands these truths about me and while she cannot always address the first, she actively works to help me with the second.

img_5956Lynnette knew that I had one more night of grading tonight and since she can’t grade the essays for me, she made sure my day was stress free.

“What do you want for dinner?” she asked this morning. “Cioppino?” I said. I don’t know why. It just seemed like a really good idea. “Okay,” she said. She figured out that she would probably have to make at least two stops to get all of the ingredients. After we got Cole’s hair cut this morning, she drove and let me nap in the van while she knocked items off her list. She let me continue my nap when we got home. Aside from the total jerk move of asking me when the Cowboys play today, she was incredible.

I got up from my nap as she was doing the prep work for dinner. I wandered into the kitchen like I always do when she’s at work. My hands – those same ones I haven’t been able to keep off of her since 2003 – found the wooden spoon to help stir the onions, fennel, and garlic. But this was just a ruse. They very quickly found her hips. “Could you just – ” she shouted. I reacted like I always do – I raised both hands above my head and shouted “NO TOUCHING!” like an incarcerated George Bluth. But that charade did not last long. I rested my hands on her shoulders, ran them down her sides, then began dancing behind her like we were on the dance floor of the Ocean Club. She muttered something that is unfit to print. You see, this is how I show love. Lynnette continued crafting our delicious dinner. This is how she shows love.

After she put the fish stock, tomatoes, and wine into the pot, she covered it. “I’m just letting the flavors marry,” she said in her best Alton Brown. “You mean like how our flavors married?” I said in my best sleazeball of your choice. She scoffed. “I don’t think our flavors ever married,” she shot back. I jerked my head back in my typical exaggerated stunned reaction. “They married at least three times!” I said, waving my arms wildly at our blissfully ignorant children. Lynnette laughed. “Ok,” she said.

Whenever I profess my love for her, Lynnette always reacts with a kind of irritated disbelief. I blame myself. I’ve said some absurd things to her in our time together. It also probably doesn’t help that I often use this artificially low and gravelly voice which can be interpreted as sarcastic. But I mean it. More than anyone else on this planet, I know how much of an idiot I am, and therefore how lucky I am to have found the love of a woman as wonderful as Lynnette.

As time and life have unraveled around me, unlike my waist, my patience has thinned. I don’t know if I feel dissatisfied more often than in the past, but I know that I express it much more frequently than I used to. Lynnette knows this, too. She also knows she can’t fix it. But that never stops her from trying to give me little victories, like an uninterrupted nap because I needed it and an incredible bowl of cioppino because I wanted it.

Thank you for today, Lynnette. I love you.

A Meaningful Trip to the Aquarium

Since the specter of the work week hangs over Sundays, Saturday is often the last true day of any school break. We didn’t waste it.

img_5939img_5931img_5934Confession: for as much crap as I give Lynnette for never, ever knowing where she wants to eat, I often don’t know, either. When I do, 9 times out of 10 I want sushi. But today, I really wanted to eat the cheeseburger(s) from Rainbow Drive-in. So that’s where we ended up. I got two of them (because three would probably be bad for me) and a thing of fries. I was lucky to have bought two because I totally forgot to take a picture of the first burger, but had regained my good blogging sense after I inhaled it. A while ago I made an Instagram post of me biting into one of these bad boys and one of my former students commented “mix a breath in” and it killed me. I have associated that comment with this burger ever since. I took his advice this time, but again, not until the second burger. Well, I was not disappointed with them, but they did make me wistful for Diner’s cheeseburgers. Alas.

Madison got a saimin and she ate it faster than I’ve ever seen her eat anything not dessert or snacks. This picture of her is her first or second bite because a few minutes into her lunch, I asked her to plop out a few noodles for Cole. She did without complaint, then basically hoovered the rest of her noodles as quickly as she could. When I called her on this and her motivation, she didn’t even deny it, she just laughed through a huge mouthful of noodles. Shameful.

Mem got her standard teri-beef plate and shared its contents with the twins. We don’t even have a competition for Mom of the Year anymore. I mean, just look at this picture. It’s hilarious. Cole’s upset because the food’s not coming fast enough and though I can’t say for sure what Avery’s doing with her foot, I would bet good money that she’s trying to interfere with Lynnette’s attempt to get the food to Cole. Some people just want to watch the world burn.

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We worked up such big appetites at Kaimana Beach. I can’t even remember when we last visited any beach and I am far too lazy to do an Instagram or blog search. I know it’s been a while, though, because my watch tan was seriously waning.

The water was cold as expected and Lynnette never got in deeper than mid-calf. Avery, though, loved the water. The temperature didn’t seem to bother her much as she stood with Lynnette at the shore break smiling and squealing. Eventually, she did get cold and hung out with Mem on the sand before taking a walk toward the Diamond Head side of the beach. She did this like 5 times. I went with her for the first three. I asked her where she was going and she replied with raspberries and excited shouts. When we finally reached the end of the sand, she stubbornly kept trying to walk. She tried to Spiderman the wall before giving up and jogging off in the other direction. “Where’s Mem?” I said, trying to reroute her back to the rest of the family. I think she knew this because she immediately reversed course and headed for the wall again.

Cole Boy spent most of his time on the sand. He grabbed the small blue bucket and tipped it over. It looked like he expected to see a sand castle when he lifted the bucket, but since he didn’t put any sand in it, no such luck. “Halp, halp!” he shouted. So I made him a sand castle. “WOW, WOW!” he said as the bucket came off the castle. Then he broke it. “OH NO NO!” he said in a very concerned tone. Then he made the hand sign for more. “Are you kidding me?” I said. “MO MO!” he replied. And so I made more. I don’t want to think about how many times this cycle repeated itself.

Madison of course, enjoyed a beach stop mostly free of having to watch one or both of the twins. This is the ratio she likes: one adult per twin. It frees her up to do whatever she wants. This is one of the funniest trends going on in our family life. If I’m home with Mad and the twins, the four of us will kind of hang out in the living room. She tried to sneak off once in a while, but I won’t let her, mostly because Avery is a living, breathing wild card. But the second Lynnette lands at the top of the stairs, man Madison is just gone. She’s in her room, my room, some room wherever we aren’t. Today she made herself an island out at sea. She deserves it.

img_5908img_5846img_5874-1We started the day at the aquarium and it was a special visit. I will let Lynnette explain:

I pulled Avery up to the first display that was filled with colorful fish and watched her face light up.  She smiled and tried to touch the fish that swam by.  My eyes got teary as I realized two things.  First, that I was correct in thinking that Avery would love the aquarium just as much as Cole did the last time we were there; she couldn’t come because with because she was in the PICU at Kapiolani.  On that day, we told ourselves that the next time we came to the aquarium we would come with Avery.  Secondly, I was overjoyed and thankful that we actually were able to come through with that promise.  During some extremely dark days a year and a half ago, there was a very real possibility that we would never make a return trip as a family of 5.  I hope you enjoyed the Waikiki Aquarium today, Avery.  I wouldn’t have traded today for the world.

It should be obvious now: I went in reverse order because I knew that I couldn’t follow Lynnette’s emotion.

She’s right, though. Avery loved the aquarium. While she found the fish moderately interesting, she loved climbing the bleachers more. She loved splashing the water in the hermit crab display. And then she went full Avery on the outside display that is clearly marked with DO NOT PUT YOUR HANDS IN THE WATER signs. She ran right up to the edge of the glass and reached up for the water. Lynnette and I stopped her from splashing the water, and every single time we did, Avery threw a mini-tantrum. But it was not a sincere tantrum, it was a ploy. She arched her back and tip-toed and screamed but held onto the top of the tank with one hand. She would use the chubby fingers on that one hand to break the surface of the water. This trip’s been a long time coming. I’m glad we finally made it.

The Playground Tour 2018

img_5658When Lynnette leaves for work every morning, my day starts with the hope that Avery isn’t awake yet. If she is, well, then I’m up too. If she isn’t then I get up, move the van out of the driveway so Lynnette can leave, then creep back into the house so as to preserve Avery’s slumber, and try for a few more precious minutes of sleep. At some point between 6:30 and 7:00, Avery wakes up and alerts me to this sad fact by mumbling and knocking on the inside of her bedroom door. When I let her out, she jogs through the house looking for Lynnette. Once she finds Lynnette missing, she settles into one of her favorite activities: reading or playing with toys, or watching a television show. Eventually, when boredom catches up to her, she makes her way into my room to see if she can’t wake up those two sleepyheads Cole and Madison. I took the picture above this morning. Madison is so not a morning person and it looks like Cole is trending that way, too. Avery, on the other hand, cannot wait to start her day.

A strange trend has emerged recently. Cole and Avery don’t eat much at breakfast. I try to filled their plates with food they like, but both of them generally will pick at just one item, ignore the rest, gulp down their milk, then declare themselves done. All of this happens before Madison makes herself known to the waking world. We can usually get going by 10, 9:30 on a good day.

img_5412img_5456img_5681That last half-hour before we leave the house is spent prepping the bags with milk and snack for the twins. I also sit at the computer trying to find playgrounds we haven’t been to yet and/or aren’t replications of sets that we’ve already hit. This is not easy. It’s a lot of Google and Google Maps.

We’ve hit the YMCA in Waipahu this break because I don’t think the twins had been there before. Plus, it has swings. I convinced Madison to bomb off of them a couple of times. Back in the Waiau Summer Fun days, I was a pretty accomplished swing jumper in my own right. I’d get so high that the chains would go slack at the height on the back of the arc, then I’d launch on the other end. Once, my shirt got caught on the chain and I got dragged back across the dirt beneath the swings. It didn’t feel like a big deal at the time – I got cut and dirty – but if that happened to one of my kids I think I’d go catatonic.

We also made it to the Alewa Heights playground this break. I discovered this playground while on a drive to Natsunoya Tea House on a Pokemon raid. Feel free to judge me, everyone else does. Anyway, the colors caught my eye but upon further inspection, it is a combination of other elements that we’ve seen before. It’s a nice little park, though. Bathrooms, tennis and basketball courts, and paved areas for the twins to sprint across. Cole climbed his first ladder with minimal assistance from Madison there. Avery banged the hell out of the chain and bell as well as the plastic drums.

Today was the first stop on the #playgroundtour2018. My intense internet research discovered the Thomas Gentry Community Center in Ewa. A small picture posted online promised a playground we hadn’t seen before. It’s really nice park. The playground and a few benches sit in a corner of a sprawling green expanse. Cole decided to give the spiral slide a shot without assistance. He made it halfway down (pictured here) fine. I lost sight of him as he went around the bend and the next time I saw him, he was spilling out of the slide headfirst. “Are you OK?” I asked. “Boo-boo,” he said as he rubbed his head. But then he got up and continued playing. Atta kid. Madison enjoyed the one of those spinner things that are akin to something you might see on American Ninja Warrior, but she gave the playground an overall rating of 5/10. For reference, Aikahi Playground and the new set in Mililani Mauka earned 10/10s. Now, if you know Avery at all, then you know the actual apparatus didn’t move her as much as the several benches nearby. But what really got her going was the wide open swath of grass. At one point, she took off running for the far point of the park. She looked back every so often and I assumed she would stop and come back, but again, if you know Avery at all, she makes a living out of defying expectations. She kept going. “Watch Cole,” I said to Madison before jogging (and logging all of my cardio for 2018) after her. When I finally caught up to the Gravy Boat I informed her that she had gone too far and had to turn back. She laughed and kept running. Reader’s Note: Avery’s laugh can be roughly translated to mean “You have no dominion over me, plump man. You’re out of breath and could barely string those words into a coherent sentence. I own you. I ran after her and scooped her up. She fought me. When I turned around, I saw Cole and Madison running in our direction. And really, this is how I know it’s time to go. The four of us converged and I said the magic words to get everyone moving in the same direction. “Who wants to get some milk?” I said. Avery’s hands immediately opened and closed, the sign for milk. She stopped fighting. Cole pointed back at the direction of the van. We began the trek back to our beloved Sienna.

There’s snacks, and then there’s lunch, and then there’s the hope that Cole and Avery will nap. From that point on, the four of us hang out at home waiting for Lynnette to get home. We all miss Mem. After dinner, I get ready to hit up McDonald’s to do some grading. I spent the last two-and-a-half hours reading essays and will probably do so every night until I go back to work. When I’m done with this entry, I’ll go home to shower, watch a movie on my iPad until I fall asleep, then start over. I hope we can get to the beach this weekend. I know it’s still relatively cool, but my skin needs some sun. Maybe 2018 is the year I can successfully take all 3 kids to the beach by myself, but right now in January, that’s a ways away. Still, a lot can happen in a year. From here to there, then.

The End of 2017

As much as it pains me to begin this entry with the question of how is possible that we’re already in 2018, it’s the only relevant question as it kind of frames everything else. Where is the time going? Why does it feel like these years of adulthood are moving at a pace exponentially faster than those in the last decade? It’s going to go on like this, isn’t it?

IMG_5656Cole and Avery didn’t make it to midnight. They both fell asleep about an hour before the big fireworks, though if you were a visitor to Oahu, you’d never know of the fireworks ban. The aerials were banging all night in Mililani; I can only imagine what it was like in other places on the island.

Cole ended 2017 on a high note. His vocabulary has absolutely exploded in the last month or so. He calls out which specific food he wants. He is able to call Lynnette’s parents “Mama” and “Papa”. He refers to his cousins by name. He recognizes everyone he comes into frequent contact with. He’s making a bunch of animal noises. I think we have The Wiggles to thank for a lot of it. In our attempt to find new shows for the twins that won’t melt our minds, Madison stumbled upon the music/dance show. I’m not a fan, but I can’t deny that Cole’s really taken to it. He sits and stands completely rapt by the show’s characters, songs, and choreography. His favorite character is Captain Feathersword, a pirate-ish guy who often brandishes – you guessed it – a sword featuring a feather rather than a blade. He mimics the Captain’s dance moves and his signature pose. He bows upon completion of these maneuvers. It’s hilarious.

Avery’s still very much a work in progress. She’s shown the desire to interact more frequently, but these conversations don’t last very long. She’s still a ball of impulses that loves making loud noises and hates being denied whatever her heart desires at the moment. Still, she loves books, she loves Lynnette, and she’s such an adventurous eater. Cole is picky, but I love holding out food to Avery on a fork. She tilts her head back and opens her mouth as wide as is possible. She loves running through the house and being chased. In fact, Tag is both our favorite game to play together. It starts when I shout “Rio, Rio!” She stops dead in her tracks and makes eye contact with me, and adds her devilish grin. Then she bolts in another direction and I try to corner her in the kitchen, living room, or her room. When I finally catch her, I tickle her under the chin and she laughs while muttering “Tickletickletickle”. I hope 2018 sees the Gravy Boat jump a whole bunch of hurdles.

IMG_5610Last night Lynnette pointed out that Madison’s becoming more fashionable. I turned to look at what Madison was wearing and said “Really?” Lynnette then laid out for me how Mad’s preferences have evolved, how she enjoys getting dressed up, and how she’s got her own opinions on her hairstyle, clothing, and footwear. Everything she said was true.

My mistake, I think, is that I’ve spent the last 2-plus years focused almost entirely on the twins. I’ve missed out on Madison moving from 7-9 years old even though we’ve been together every single day. This breaks my heart. Whenever Facebook reminds me of posts from past years, I am confronted with the fact that Mad and I used to be best friends. Last night at 12, I hugged her and kissed her on the cheek. It felt weird and I wondered when it was that I last kissed her. It was a painful thing to realize that I didn’t know. I’m not big on resolutions because I always fail them. But the one thing I really want to work on is my relationship with Madison. I’m sorry, Mad. You deserve more from me. I don’t know that we can ever get back to the Era of Peace that you love to reference, but I hope you and I can find more in common this year and on.

IMG_5609Lynnette and I went on a date Saturday night and it was our first in a while. We ate delicious food and then because I know Lynnette so well, I could detect the exact moment during dinner when Lynnette started purposely pulling back so she could have room for dessert. It’s a comforting thing to know someone so well, even if she denied it by saying “even if I stop now, I don’t think I’ll have room for dessert” because I knew that she would say “actually, I think I could go for Pipeline” 20 minutes later.

Two Saturdays ago, Cole and Avery fell asleep with Lynnette in their actual room. Lynnette popped out of the room and told Madison to sleep in her own room. “What?!” I said, stunned. “We’re actually going to sleep in our own bed?” I said. “That’s right,” she said. That lasted for about half-an-hour before she sat up and said “I’m going to sleep with Cole and Avery.” “What? Why?” I said. “It’s their first time sleeping together. I wanna make sure they don’t wake each other up,” she said. “Wait – does that mean I’m going to sleep in my own bed by myself?” I said. If I had a tail, it would’ve been wagging ferociously. “Merry Christmas,” she said as she walked out of the room. I admit it: I laughed.

The next morning on our way out, Lynnette said “By the way, last night was the worst night of sleep in my life,” she said. “Why?” I asked. “They move around too much. They kept rolling onto each other. They don’t like to sleep next to each other so I had to sleep between them, but then they kept rolling into me.” “Oh,” I said. “What?” she said. “It’s just that I had the best night of sleep in my life last night,” I said, laughing. Lynnette smirked and replied with something that I won’t type here. But it made Madison shouted “Mom!” so you can probably guess.

In all honesty, I don’t know how we keep this thing together sometimes. Some nights when I’m laid out in the pink room, I think about how these sleeping arrangements and their consequences are just a few of the many things I could not have foreseen when the twins were born. There are many of these unintended and unpredictable consequences. I don’t enjoy many of them. There’s no way around it: Lynnette is the ___________ (whatever metaphorical piece you want) that makes this ________________________ (whatever metaphorical whole you want) work. Selfishly, I hope the twins do a lot of growing up over the next year so that Lynnette and I can settle into something approaching our former normalcy. When I held Lynnette last night as the fireworks dotted the sky, I thought back to the same night (on the same driveway) in 2004/2005 when I asked her to marry me. I’ll never forget her holding the rake but not actually raking because she kept looking down at the ring resting on her splayed left hand. It seems impossible that so much time has passed. But it has. So much more will. Of that I am certain. That and how grateful I am to have Lynnette at the center of everything.

Happy New Year, Love. Thank you for bringing out my best and enduring my worst. You are truly the only person I’ve ever met that could possibly do both. I love you.

Aloha, Steve and Kathy!

Steve and Kathy Lewis, two pillars of Damien Memorial School have retired. Last Thursday was their final day on campus. We celebrated them at our faculty Christmas party the same day. It was fitting but it didn’t seem like enough. Then again, I can’t say what would have been.

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Encounter Retreat, Fall 2006. Clockwise from top left: Hils, Paulie, me, Kathy, Steve

 


Somehow, Mr. Lewis was never my teacher. I had Mr. Lee as my freshman religion teacher, then Mr. Nitta for two years in a row, and finally I caught Mr. Sullivan during my senior year. I remember, though, that Mr. Lewis subbed for my religion class just once and though it now seems insane – actually went over the assignment. He didn’t mention me by name, but he called me out for the incorrect use of the word “dissident”. I used this word, no doubt, because I really liked (and still do) the song “Dissident” by Pearl Jam. That is why I never forgot this throwaway moment. So yeah, aside from this single class on one lone day, Mr. Lewis was never my teacher. Which isn’t to say he didn’t teach me, because for the 15-plus years I’ve been a teacher, that’s pretty much all he did. During my first two years as a very young teacher, Mr. Lewis helped me understand two things that I still carry with me today. First, it was a mistake to base my style and approach on the assumption that my students would hold the same values I did. I was 22 when I started teaching. It wasn’t that I didn’t have an open mind; it’s more that I didn’t realize it was closed. Second, he helped me to take the longview. Again, because I was young, everything seemed like an emergency and at times, world-ending crises that was sure to lead to my unceremonious firing. He assured me I was doing fine work, that I knew me stuff, that I just had to figure out my own style. That would only come with time, he said. Through trial and error.

I can’t remember exactly when Mrs. Lewis was hired, but I know that she wasn’t always Mrs. Lewis. When she and Mr. Lewis first got together, we all went on an Encounter Retreat together. This was the first time in my life that I had seen Mr. Lewis in shorts. His shirt was untucked. “What the hell, Mr. Lewis?” I remember half-sarcastically saying that November morning. He smiled. “See?” Mrs. Lewis said, nodding knowingly. She went off about how he had to relax a little. From that point on, the Damien grads on staff kind of piled on Mr. Lewis about slippers and camo cargo shorts and his new haircut. You have to understand, I had only ever seen him wear two things before that morning: dress shirt and tie with slacks and dress shoes or aloha shirt tucked into jeans with maybe rubber slippers. It was on this weekend, I think, that I first began calling him Steve instead of Mr. Lewis. But Mrs. Lewis was always Kathy, and Kathy was always there for me when I needed a shoulder and an ear.

When the twins were born and I was struggling to hold it together at work, Kathy would sit with me in that side room of the former brothers’ residence. She would listen to things I could not even admit to my best friends and family. She did not judge my words of anger and frustration through tired tears. Forty-five minutes later, I would wipe my eyes, take a deep breath, then find a way through class. She did this with me every day, for as long as I needed it, and then she was there again when Avery got sick. In truth, I can’t say how I got through those tough times, but I know for sure that Kathy was a significant part of it.


 

4

Christmas Party, Winter 2017

Steve and Kathy,

I’ve thanked you both in the past for your friendship, but I don’t think I’ve ever spent more than a few words trying to express what I really mean.

I like to say that I grew up at Damien twice. Once from 14-18, and then from 22-Jesus, 37. During that second stint, the two of you were influential role models for me, especially as a young married man. I learned that while it is always great to win, sometimes you have to lose (with grace is optional). You taught me that part of what love is, is to see the person you’re with for all that they are – faults and all – and to somehow fall in love with those faults slightly more than they drive you insane. But the most important thing you two have given me is hope. I don’t want to betray either of you, so I will simply say that I know that there are things in both of your pasts that for one reason or another did not work out. Yet here you are, together and off on a crazy adventure together. You both know that sometimes I worry that this, where I am right now, is it. Whether you know it or not, the two of you have given me hope for a second, and maybe even a third act that can be just as fresh and exciting as the first.

I wish you guys all the good stuff. You deserve it. I’ll miss you guys so much.

Your Friend Always,
Phil Higa